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perfectionism vs. vulnerability

I have been reading a book about the gifts of imperfection over the last few weeks [1]. For someone who has perfectionist tendencies (if you are a graduate student, you inevitably fall into this category), it has been a good reminder that what I am really looking for is not perfection but being loved and being okay with who I am. Perfectionism is often an attempt to keep fear and vulnerability at bay by controlling every detail of life. And because this level of control is impossible (life always involves things much larger than us), being a perfectionist can get pretty stressful.

Adhering to high standards and working hard to do one's best, well that's something else, and not defined by a joyless, obsessive drive to be perfect. In fact, working really hard at something you care deeply about in order to get it right is generally exhilarating! And usually accompanied by lots of trial and error as one figures it out. However, the ugly desire to control every last detail no matter how it affects others around us...well, that is something that shows me how much I fear being vulnerable.

Perfectionism is me berating myself for not blogging here for two weeks. No excuses are acceptable. Perfectionism demands that I come up with something innovative and crowd-pleasing every time I write a blog. Perfectionism checks how many hits I have on each post and gets dejected at low numbers. Perfectionism asks in a screeching voice: what did you do wrong? Perfectionism is no fun to be around. Honestly, I sit much easier in the realm of vulnerability than I do in perfectionism, but I still resist it many times.

Vulnerability not only accepts human limitations, but embraces things like an unexpected illness, printers running out of ink, forgetting to bring something to work, the interruptions of a neighbour or colleague, and getting rejection letters. Vulnerability doesn't freak out at these things; vulnerability says the Yes of acceptance, takes a deep breath, and then embraces the chaos in order that it might become a lovely, meaningful, and rich part of the tapestry of life. Vulnerable people are people who can trust others, who can take risks with joy, who love with freedom, who walk by faith, and who know that nothing is ever hopeless.

Perfectionism makes demands; vulnerability gives gifts. May I be a gift-giver, giving who I am and what I have been blessed with to the world.

[1] Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection. Hazeldon, 2010.


Shelley said…
I struggle with this thanks for this reminder Matte! I looked for your blog this week and noticed you hadn't written one, and thought "well, I guess Matte is human just like me." ha.

And when weeks or months go by and I haven't blogged, I wonder how you do it so faithfully!

Anyway thank you, and way to go letting yourself off the hook. :D

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